17 April 2013
17 April 2013,

The recent Ministry of Education publication, Organisational Approaches to E-Learning in the Tertiary Sector, recognises the need to understand learners preferences and the ability for learners to connect their devices, as important factors in student success when e-learning. The MoE report also highlighted the dependence on an institutional approach for successful implementation of e-learning.

Education delivery platforms that suit learner needs are important for improving student achievement rates. But with learners wanting BYOD (bring your own device) and learning independence from a real time internet connections, and pedagogy yearning for rich learning material and meaningful personal interactions, the path forward is not clear.

We are living in an era where affordable, easy-to-use, mobile technologies support a BYOD standard. Internationally, educational leaders express support for BYOD in order to facilitate students’ engagement with learning and extend teaching and learning environments.

For the learner the solution is not to gain improved access to learning websites through apps that make the content look a certain way. The solution lies in accessing truly mobile learning resources. Recourses that provide rich and interactive learning materials regardless of real time web connections.

Learners are seeking resources that can be downloaded as a package to a mobile device. Resources that provide direction and support, that provide rich and engaging learning material, and connect to web-based material when needed. Resources that reduce the distractions and difficulty of being online, yet may connect to OERs (Open Education Resources), online discussion forums and support within a purposefully designed programme of study.

In this way learner preferences of highly mobile, rich and interactive learning material, and independence from real time web connections are satisfied. Not only that, such a resource offers an intelligence service to its host. Progress reports offer opportunities for interventions and support, and learning analytics can lead to improvements in resource design and content.

But with the MoE report in mind, this elegant solution, while recognising the learners’ needs, will not succeed without an institutional approach. Delivering what the BYOD, blended learner seeks represents a massive shift in process, not only because of the student-centered approach, but because the technology has changed. In 2013 a hand held device has become a powerful learning tool.

The tertiary institution that commits to a student-centered approach to m-learning has a future. The capability of tablets will only increase, the cost only decrease. The institution that delivers well designed learning resources to these devices, whether part of a blended learning package, distance offering, or for campus based learners, will be able to stand against the slick overseas offerings we are beginning to see as eBooks.

The MoE report is worth reading. Its recognition of the importance of students’ needs and preferences, and the critical role that pan-organisational strategies play in the success of e-learning, remain valid in the emerging context of m-learning and the globalisation of education.